By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — No matter what the circumstances, it seems the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds will always provide compelling hockey.
The I-5 rivals clash once again when the teams meet this evening in Kent, which means yet another chapter of the Silvertips-Thunderbirds saga will be written.
“I can’t wait,” was Everett winger Carson Stadnyk’s response to tonight’s approaching game, which begins at 5:05 p.m. at ShoWare Center. “We play really well there. Beating the T-birds, our division rivals, would be a huge game to help us out in the standings.”
It seems regardless of where the teams are in the standings, Everett and Seattle are destined to play competitive, exciting hockey games.
Just how competitive have the teams been? This season they’ve played eight of their 10 meetings, with Seattle holding a 5-3 lead. Of those eight games, six were decided by one goal, with two of those needing overtime to be decided.
Those type of competitive games have been going on for four seasons. Everett and Seattle played 10 times each of the past three campaigns, and all three times the season series split right down the middle at 5-5. Sixteen of the 30 games were decided by a lone goal.
And those game have had the most critical of consequences, too. The previous two seasons Everett and Seattle weren’t good teams, so they found themselves battling head-to-head just to make the playoffs. In 2010-11 and 2011-12, Everett scraped into the Western Conference’s final playoff spot at Seattle expense, finishing three and two points ahead, respectively, in the standings.
Last season, Seattle finished seventh, one point ahead of eighth-place Everett. In 2011-12 the teams played what was essentially a winner-takes-all game on the last weekend of the season, with the winner advancing to the playoffs and the loser going home. Everett won 6-4 in Kent, with the Tips not clinching it until Ryan Harrison’s empty netter with 19 seconds remaining. So while the quality of hockey may not have been the highest, the games couldn’t have had more on the line.
This season, the teams don’t have as much at stake with regards to their head-to-head positioning in the standings — both teams already have clinched playoff spots, and it would take a miracle for the sixth-place Tips (73 points) to make up the nine points it would take to catch the fourth-place T-birds (82 points prior to Saturday night’s home game against Portland) with just two weeks remaining in the season.
But that hasn’t kept the games from being equally compelling this season. And with both teams dramatically improved this season, the quality of play has also improved.
“It doesn’t matter if there’s superstars on each teams, you just don’t want to lose to that rival because you’ll hear about it a lot,” Stadnyk said. “It’s just huge momentum and bragging rights if we get the wins.”
It’s a longshot that the teams will meet in the first round of the playoffs, but not an impossibility. Everett went into Saturday’s action five points behind fifth-place Spokane, meaning if the Tips could make up that ground they could potentially set up a four-five first-round matchup.
Everett is in it’s 11th season in the WHL and has made the playoffs every season, yet the Tips and T-birds have never met in the playoffs. Therefore, it’s a mouth-watering prospect with the potential of capturing the imagination of the Puget Sound hockey community.
“That would be nice,” Stadnyk said about the possibility of meeting Seattle in the first round. “We’re all hoping for that, it would pretty much be a dream come true. But we just have to keep giving our best and not let up.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.